The South African connection to this event fared well, with Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling 15 winning his class.
Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s Class A winner Highland Fling 15, a Nautor’s Swan 115 which was launched last year, also made sure of the top prize for the division by wining two of their three races. Tactician Stuart Childerley, a past GBR Olympian who is in demand around the world as a top Principal Race Officer, loved his return to the cut and thrust of calling tactics rather than setting courses and laying start lines.
“We set out to keep it as simple as possible and let the boat do the work, to make as few tacks as possible and we did that,” he said. We made a good start today. We teach the kids that winning is usually about sailing the shortest distance, don’t we, and that is what we focussed on. For me, personally it was great to be back into it, a lot of fun with a good team on board.”
Here’s the race report by Andi Robertson
Overall victory in the highly competitive fleet of six J Class yachts earned the crew of Lionheart the top prize at the second America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta, hosted by Boat International Media. The record sized J Class fleet, racing in association with the Bermuda Business Development Agency, was the centre of attention amidst the 20 superyacht crews mustered in Bermuda.
Lionheart, which has seven times round the world racer Bouwe Bekking as its long time tactician, reaped the rewards of their solid, consistent sailing – finishing third today – to win the class which contains dozens of past America’s Cup winners among the crews competing in Bermuda.
“We are delighted. We want to win all the races we ever do. That’s why we do it, isn’t it,” Bekking smiled. “And the boat is going well in the conditions that we have prepared her for.
“When we learned we were going to Bermuda where potentially there are very light airs, we had to look and see how we can make the boat as good as it can be. That was the first thing “And then when we are doing our training it is very intensive. I am sure we have done more manoeuvres in practice than anyone else. And of course our owner has done a fantastic job driving the ‘bus’. He has come a long way and is beating some of the good pro drivers, and of course there are other great owner-drivers in this class.”
Also in the running for the overall trophy was Action, the 37.3m Dykstra design built by Royal Huisman, which won Class B. Tension prevailed into the final minutes of the last race as Action saved her time on her rivals by virtue of the last two or three windshifts picked out by double Olympic silver medallist and Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Ian Walker who works in concert with Shirley Robertson, a double gold medal winner who concentrates on keeping the boat speed up. Walker was coach to Robertson’s 2004 gold medal winning Yngling trio in Athens and their chemistry is important on board, along with the precise navigation and weather info from Marcel van Trieste.
“We have done three regattas now and have been getting better each time and so it is great to win here. The first regatta was really about learning the simple things like how to get the spinnaker up and down and how to do the manoeuvres,” Walker explained. “Shirley does great work with the owner who steers the boat all the way through the races, making sure we are fast all the time.”
Robertson admitted that she has enjoyed the simple pleasure of going racing on the beautiful yacht as a welcome interlude from her demanding role as anchor for the main America’s Cup TV coverage in Britain.
“It all came together in the end,” Robertson said. “I think this whole month here in Bermuda has been a real celebration of sailing in an amazing venue, and to have a superyacht regatta here with these beautiful boats has been really special. It has been great watching the America’s Cup but in our own way to have been able to take a part in it has been great.”
Bequia, the beautiful Stephens Waring and White 27.6m design, won for the second day in a row to win Class C overall. Tom Whidden, who first won the America’s Cup with Stars & Stripes in 1980, guided Bequia to the class win, highlighting the range of courses as an outstanding feature of the event.
“It has been fantastic to bring superyachts into this scenario. People love a reason to go racing and here it is. And I am loving the America’s Cup,” Whidden commented. “The regatta has been great. There is a lot of excitement being in Bermuda at this time and the island has been a great host.